What IF...

We are thrilled to share the exciting news of the launch of the 2023-24 Innovation Funding campaign by SISU: The Innovation Institute at Northern Michigan University. Again, with the tremendous support of our campus leadership SISU has up to $1,000,000 dollars in funds to support innovation at NMU. Under the theme "Innovating The Future," our focus is on propelling new ideas connected to renovation to the forefront, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, and driving meaningful innovations forward.

This year's Innovation Funding (IF) process centers around the "How Might We?" of innovation, encouraging engagement with ideas at all stages of the process – whether it's a budding seed awaiting exploration, a fully-formed concept ready for development, or an existing service/program in need of reimagination. The SISU IF Awards aim to gather ideas from across our campus and community, sparking new programs, interdisciplinary projects, and transformative efforts aligned with the University's strategic plan, mission, vision, and core values.

New this year...

All ideas submitted will have an in person 15 minute Idea presentation with the review committee on February 2, 2024 from 12 - 5pm. This new aspect to the submission process is to allow for all submissions to have an in person question and answer opportunity for each proposal. Times will be scheduled upon receipt of idea proposal submission to SISU. This will be an in person experience. 

  • Submission Period Opens - December 1, 2023 (8am)
  • Submission Period Ends - January 29, 2024 (5pm)
  • Review Period Begins - January 30, 2024
  • Idea Submission Presentation February 2, 2024 12:00pm - 5:00pm (New)
  • Finalists Announced - February 19, 2024
  • Innovation Week Showcase - February 22, 2024 5-9pm at The Landmark Inn

Innovation Funding is divided into three categories:

Discovery Funding - Exploration into new opportunities.

Re-Innovation Funding - Redirection or reimagining of existing programs or services

Innovation Implementation Funding - Ideas that are ready to take to scale


To learn more about whats included within these categories, contact SISU

  1. All proposals will have a one-page limit and must include the following:
    1. Project name and description
    2. Goals/expected outcomes
    3. Explanation of how the project relates to the University’s core values, strategic initiatives and represents the SISU values of being interdisciplinary, collaborative, agile, and inclusive.
    4. Timeline for activities
    5. Identified benchmarks for success
    6. Exit plan or teach out
  2. Itemized estimated two-year budget 
  3. After initial review, the SISU team may ask for additional information, for example, proposals for new or enhanced academic programs or projects might need to include current market research data as evidence of demand or need. Additionally, if proposing a new academic program, be prepared to complete an undergraduate or graduate proposal using the CUP/GPC (AAUP) or FEC (NMUFA) forms (if proposing new curriculum or curriculum changes) as appropriate.

Upload your project proposal using the form below

To ensure a smooth transition to the next stage of innovation, participating project teams must attend the SISU: Intro to Design Thinking workshop and Innovation Funding Idea and Rubric workshop. If you've already attended the Intro to Design Thinking workshop, a second attendance is not necessary. Select a convenient date and time during the Idea Submission process, available at https://nmu.edu/sisu/idea-submission (We will have many dates in December and January available). 


Scheduled IF/ Design Thinking Session Dates:

December 11, 2023 -  3:00pm - 4:30pm

December 13, 2023 - 8:00am - 9:30am

December 15, 2023 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm (Online)

January 10, 2024 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm (Online)

January 16, 2024 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm (Online)

January 22, 2024 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm

January 26, 2024 - 8:30am - 10:00am


If none of the listed times suit your schedule, please contact sisu@nmu.edu, and we'll do our best to accommodate you or your team.  

  • Completed proposals will be submitted to the Review Committee for consideration and recommendation to the Provost, who will make the final funding decision. The Review Committee members are appointed by the Directors of SISU: the Innovation Institute at NMU and will include 12-15 members representing the campus community (including faculty, staff, and students). 
  • Award Recipients will be announced February 2023
  • If selected, SISU will ask for a five-year plan before funds are available. 

The funding period for all 2022-2023 IF awards will begin March 2023. 

  • Programs and projects will be given a two-year pilot period. 
  • Success will be determined by achieving benchmarks for retention or enrollment.
  • All funded proposals will submit a one-year progress report. Progress reports should include:
    • Activities completed
    • Any benchmarks reached
    • Upcoming events/plans 
    • Obstacles for implementation
    • Goals for the remainder of the project
  • At the end of two-year pilot:
    • Full report to be submitted to the SISU team and the Provost. Report to include:
      • Summary of project
      • Full budget report
      • All benchmarks reached. Those that were not reached, reasons why.
      • Obstacles to implementation and ways that these could have been resolved or were resolved 
      • Goals or plans for the future

*Determination will be made to continue or discontinue the program/project.


SISU Lantern

Have An Idea?

Before submitting your idea, please make sure you have read all information above!

Previous Award Recipients

SISU: the Innovation Institute at NMU has announced the recipients of 2022-2023 Innovation Funding. 

Recipients include...

Steve VandenAvond, Ph.D
Associate Provost for Extended Learning and Community Engagement & Dean, College of Technology and Occupational Sciences
60-year Curriculum
The 60-Year Curriculum (Dede & Richards, 2020) is a lifelong learning model that the Division of Extended Learning and Community Engagement (ELCE) is implementing. This involves creating lifelong learning pathways containing both credit and non-credit credentials over a 60-year period between high school and the end of the working years. Following the introduction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a number of non-accredited education providers (Coursera, EdX) and businesses (Google, LinkedIn) have developed non-credit credential systems, many of which can be articulated into academic credit.

David Nyberg, J.D.
Executive Director, Business Engagement and Economic Development, NMU 
Rural Leadership Fellowship
The Rural Leadership Fellowship is a paid, scholarship-supported applied learning experience for students interested in rural economic development and public sector careers. Student fellows will be mentored by experienced leaders in planning and executing a project in the U.P. that has been identified as an economic development priority. The mentorship network and administration of the program is a public-private partnership with InvestUP, a non-profit economic development organization supported by the region’s major employers to drive prosperity across the U.P. Fellowships will be awarded annually through a competitive application process for a two-year pilot with an objective to sustain the program based on response and demand. Fellowships will include full in-state tuition scholarships and cash stipends.

Emera Bridger Wilson, Ph.D.
Collection Management Librarian, NMU
Open Educational Resources
This program will encourage faculty to incorporate Open Educational Resources (OER) into their coursework. The objectives for this idea in the first year is to raise awareness about OER amongst faculty and provide resources to help them use OER in the classroom in the form of workshops. It has been shown that using OERs decrease the cost of courses for students and can improve retention. Many students do not buy texts that are too expensive and therefore they are unable to be as successful as they could be if they had class materials. OERs are often more accessible and inclusive than their standard textbook counterparts. OERs also allow faculty to have greater control over course materials, leading to greater academic freedom and workplace satisfaction.

Jane C. Harris, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Forensic Anthropology, NMU
Forensic Science Program
We are proposing the development of a Forensic Science Program (interdisciplinary major) that, when finalized, will prepare NMU students for a career or graduate study in forensic science. The academic program that we seek to develop will provide NMU students with a strong foundation rooted in the hard sciences and quantitative analysis methods, in addition to exposing them to practical experience and education in various applied forensic science disciplines. This major will provide NMU students a direct pipeline to conduct original research at FROST, if that is their desire; it will also provide an option for students to study non-taphonomy-based sciences if FROST research is not something they want to pursue.

Jes thompson, Ph.D.
Professor, College of Business; Sustainability Advisory Council, Co-Chair, NMU
SHINE is an interdisciplinary hub to improve sustainability-related communication, coordination, and education on campus in order to attract and retain students. The next generation of Wildcats are seeking institutions that commit to sustainability – including environmental, social and economic equity. SHINE will be responsible for the following: 1) NMU’s Sustainability Tracking and Rating System (STARS) audit and Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) membership; 2) communicating and coordinating sustainability-related efforts across divisions and departments in appropriate forums; 3) facilitating experiential learning through internships and projects; 4) advising and providing operational support to EcoReps; and 5) developing sustainability-related online micro-credentials and certifications in partnership with the Marquette Outdoor Venture (MOV) Innovation Center (funded by the USDA-RISE grant).

Jill Leonard
Biology Department Head & Professor, NMU
STEM Short Course
Explore and develop processes to offer a wide variety of science-related short courses that can be offered at unusual times (e.g. shoulder seasons, spring break, weekends, etc). The project is designed to evaluate the parameters within which these courses would be offered including student housing and financial aid, faculty pay, co-offering credit and continuing ed, risk mitigation, etc. so that we can standardize and make simple the offering of these courses by faculty. Also, we will explore the idea of micro-credentialing based on these courses. We think that short courses will be highly attractive to students (current and prospective), as well as community members, and offer short, intensive transformative experiences. They also have the potential to offer greater support to retention initiatives and research/scholarship through focused skills training.

Lindsay Haukkala
Asst Dir-McNair Scholars, College of Graduate Studies, NMU
Undergrad Research Fellows
An Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program open to all NMU undergrads. 10 selected fellows will participate, earning $2,000 paid out as they complete work. Replicate the success of the Freshman Fellowship Program, but extend eligibility for students beyond freshmen. Undergraduate research is already done on campus, but there isn’t a centralized location to oversee and assist efforts. The long-term goal of the Program is to create a one-stop hub for students who are interested in undergraduate research, under the College of Graduate Education and Research.

Randal Klitzke
Associate Professor of Automotive Technology, NMU
EV & HEV Auto Curriculum
Automotive faculty desire university support to strategically explore curriculum enhancement and / or new pathways targeting skill training related to modern and emerging Electric Vehicle (EV) and Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) technologies. Resources for professional development, technology tools, and training materials are sought for implementation into the program to both reimage current curriculum and to develop new pathways for student success. Key points of focus include safety, collaboration with internal and external partners, and establishing a program of excellence to attract students from across the region including major metropolitan areas commonplace with these modes of transportation.

Robyn Stille
Exec. Director of Alumni Relations, NMU
Nichole Braska
Asst. Director of Admissions, NMU
Alumni Ambassadors
Alumni are our best ambassadors, and we need to leverage their pride in NMU. Their reflections on their experiences cannot be duplicated by professional staff, and they can provide a unique perspective. Additionally, enrollment is one of the most frequently requested ways alumni want to help the university. Alumni are assisting with recruitment, but in more of an ad-hoc way as opportunities arise as opposed to a holistic approach. In recent years Admissions and Alumni staff and alumni volunteers have brainstormed new ideas for engaging alumni in recruitment. Our proposal is to pilot some of these new ideas to identify those that yield the most benefit and work those initiatives into base budgeting to provide some consistency in programming.

Stephanie Zadroga-Langlois
Director, Continuing Ed. and Workplace Development, NMU
Steve VandenAvond, Ph.D
Associate Provost for Extended Learning and Community Engagement & Dean, College of Technology and Occupational Sciences

Van Life
This project, which would be the first of its kind in the nation, would use retrofitted “van life” vans as experiential learning environments for NMU students. Vans will be equipped for a full “residence” experience and will allow students who live in them to study anywhere in the continental United States. The first stage of the project will involve short-term experiences in which students travel to specific locations that pertain to certain courses in which they are enrolled. For example, students in environmental science or geography courses might study from a national park. The long-term vision for the vanlife project would be for NMU to own a fleet of vans (20) for students to have semester-long, off-campus learning experiences. The project will also include the creation of educational credentials regarding retrofitting vans. We will begin by developing a non-credit credential that will be offered in the summer of 2023.

In order to be approved, all programs had to go through a design thinking workshop centered around their IF, which included a diverse range of area experts. Project champions will be reporting progress on their projects quarterly. The projects not chosen were given action items to further develop their ideas for the future and an opportunity to attend a design thinking workshop focusing on their idea.

Congratulations to this year's recipients!  SISU is always accepting new innovations via the submission form

SISU: the Innovation Institute at NMU has announced the recipients of 2021-2022 Program Incentive Funds. Five programs have been chosen to move on to the next steps of innovation. 

Recipients include...

  • Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute (UPCI) to fund the creation of a NMU Automotive Cybersecurity Certificate program.
    • Project Champion: Doug Miller, Director, UPCI
  • Center for Teaching and Learning to assemble a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) to explore the HyFlex, a course delivery model combining face-to-face (F2F) and online learning.
    • Project Champion: Matt Smock, Director of Instructional Design and Technology
  • Fresh Water, Fresh Voices, a collaboration between English Graduate Programs, Earth, Environmental, & Geographical Studies (EEGS) and Fresh Coast Film Festival. This will produce a local conference offering an "interdisciplinary experiential learning opportunity that centers on NMU's unique landscape and established leadership in sustainability and graduate writing programs."
    • Project Champion: Dr. Rachel May, Associate Professor of English
  • Indoor Agriculture Program to assist in the creation of a Commercial Crop Lab in the former Aviation hangar located at NMU's Jacobetti Complex.
    • Project Champion: Evan Lucas, Assistant Professor of Technology and Occupational Sciences
  • Construction Management and Trimball Labs to enhance learning activities by incorporating new virtual reality technology and developing higher quality labs for a new fully online degree.
    • Project Champion: Evan Lucas, Assistant Professor of Technology and Occupational Sciences

In order to be approved, all programs had to go through a design thinking workshop centered around their PIF, which included a diverse range of area experts. Project champions will be reporting progress on their projects quarterly. The projects not chosen were given action items to further develop their ideas for the future and an opportunity to attend a design thinking workshop focusing on their idea.

Congratulations to this year's recipients!  The 2022-2023 PIF cycle will begin in August. SISU will be holding PIF submission workshops August through October, with submissions beginning in October. SISU is always accepting new innovations via the submission form

SISU: The Innovation Institute at NMU is an institute for innovation and transformational education encouraging the cultivation of ideas leading to relevant and sustainable university services and academic programs. As an internal hub for innovation, SISU provides a welcoming and inclusive space for members of the NMU community to bring or generate, collaborate, and develop ideas for programs and services.

Contact Information

Office 906-227-2050